Mirage, by Jenn Reese (Candlewick 2013) is the second book in a pretty darn exciting sci-fi adventure series, set in a future world where humans have been genetically altered to survive in a variety of environments. The first book, Above World, told how Aluna, one of the underwater folk, ventured out onto dry land to wage a battle against the enemy who was slowly killing her people. But though she won the battle, the war against the maniacal scientist and his cloned minions that could destroy all the genetically-altered folk of the world is still going strong.
So Aluna and a group of diverse companions--Hoku, her friend from below the water, Dash, an exiled Equine, whose centaur-half never grew, and Calli, an Avian girl, venture into the desert to find Dash's people and make an alliance with them. Unfortunately, their enemy has gotten there first.....but fortunately, there is hope--challenging the power of the Equines in the Thunder Trials that determine who leads the herds.
And so, in a story that involves lots of warrior training, lots of investigating old technology, and lots of tests of friendship and courage, Aluna and her friends forge a new herd...and enter the Trials.
Amidst the excitements of political and physical wrangling, amidst all the figuring out just who their enemy is, and how to fight back, there is tons of good character building and relationships--the foursome are still young, and fumbling a tad in their journey to adulthood. They must trust each other...but with so many external pressures being brought to bear, it's not always easy.
There a nicely idealistic theme to the series, too. The different races of humanity must learn to put aside past differences--which, in the case of the war between the Equines and the Serpenti (snake people) bordered on genocide. The few Serpenti who are left throw their lot in with Aluna, realizing that it is better to keep trying for a future than to sit and wait for death in the in the dark.
And finally, Alana is a most excellent heroine--brave and determined, without being unbelievable super-heroic.
I enjoyed this one more than the first book, perhaps because there is less traveling and more getting to know a particular people and place, and I'm looking forward to Book three with enthusiasm!
Here's another review from Brandy, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile, who goes beyond simple enjoyment into Book Love.
Nominated for Cybils (Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction) by Stephanie Burgis; review copy gratefully received from the publisher for Cybils consideration.